- A federal U.S. District judge has thrown the book at Pacific Gas and Electric, sentencing the utility to run a series of television advertisements for three months focusing on pipeline safety violations that led to the fatal 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.
- Last year, the company was found guilty of six criminal counts related to the disaster, including one count of obstructing an agency proceeding. The explosion killed eight and destroyed almost 50 homes.
- In addition to publicizing the court case, PG&E will pay a $3 million fine, and its employees will perform 10,000 hours of community service, with high-level personnel performing 2,000 of those hours. The judge also said an independent monitor must oversee the safety of PG&E's gas pipeline system.
PG&E would undoubtedly like to put the San Bruno disaster in its past, but a judge's decision last week means the explosion will remain in the news for at least a few more months. PG&E must spend $3 million on television commercials that will run for three months in addition to the $3 million fine, the Mercury News reports, focusing on the court's decision and the pipeline safety violations.
“I find the crimes at issue to be very serious and to pose a great risk to public safety, and that's why I am going to impose the maximum possible fine and maximum possible probation terms allowable under the law,” wrote U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, according to the Times.
PG&E issued a statement noting that it has met 11 of a dozen recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board, is focused on completing the final recommendation and has received third-party certifications of the company's safety progress. Already, California regulators levied $1.6 billion in fines on the utility for its role in the explosion.
"We've invested billions of shareholder dollars in gas safety improvements," PG&E said. The utility has tested and replaced hundreds of miles of natural gas pipelines, installed new emergency shut off valves, and established a state-of-the-art gas safety operations center.
"We want San Bruno and all of the communities we serve to know that we at PG&E have committed ourselves to a goal of transforming this company into the safest and most reliable energy provider in America and to re-earning their trust through our actions.," the company said.
Last year, a federal jury found the utility guilty of five counts of pipeline management violations under the U.S. Pipeline Safety Act and one count of obstructing an agency proceeding. On six record keeping charges, the jury found PG&E not guilty, despite a court filing from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco reporting alleged evidence that PG&E attempted to dispose of key safety records relating to the pipeline explosion